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‘Insect Trainer': A Juvenile Farce

Cockroaches and flatulence, flatulence and cockroaches. Why, oh, why won’t someone write a play about these dreadfully under-examined topics?

Well, someone did. The late Timothy Agoglia Carey, film actor and longtime associate of director John Cassavetes, blessed the stage with “The Insect Trainer,” the long-overdue yarn of a boy and his gas.

The playwright died before his work could be realized, but his son, Romeo Carey, has picked up the mantle, directing, producing and starring in the new show at Heliotrope Theatre. And what a show. A queasy cocktail of Franz Kafka and Alfred Jarry, this juvenile farce has almost everything--except laughs.

Carey the younger plays Guasti Q. Guasti, a dishwasher with not-so-lofty ambitions to: 1) coach a cockroach to perform tricks, and 2) dance a tango accompanied by noises from his lower intestine. But first he must defend himself against charges that he killed a woman with his gas.

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The story is loosely inspired by Le Petomane, an old French vaudevillian who could bring down the house, figuratively speaking, by breaking wind on cue. But “The Insect Trainer” seldom induces anything more than a pained smile. Carey and son seem to regard flatulence itself as amusingly subversive, a view that somehow fails to salvage the dull court fight occupying Act 2.

Beyond the script, the show does not want for much. Young Carey, who has a disarming, streetwise presence, is joined by 30 other actors in a multicultural ensemble, and Wesley Nagy composed the incidental music, performed by a six-piece orchestra.

* “The Insect Trainer,” Heliotrope Theatre, 660 N. Heliotrope, Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 5 p.m. Ends July 14. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.


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